NHL Labour Negotiations Never Really Got Off The Ground…

Well, here we go again.  I thought I had put this blog to bed for good but my blood’s been boiling to the point that I had to dust it off.  After all, what better way to vent than to post something anonymously on the internet that upwards of 6 people will bother to read?

Lockout with your jock out

When these labour negotiations got underway, I was fairly neutral on the whole thing.  I didn’t really care much one way or the other; I just wanted a deal that was decent for the sustainability of NHL hockey in Winnipeg.  From an instant gratification perspective, I also didn’t want to miss any hockey this season.

After a summer of listening to Gary and Donald pretend to say something without really saying anything at all, I’ve now shifted completely to one end of the spectrum.  Yep, I caught a case of Bettman-itis and it’s bad, really bad.  In fact, it’s gotten so that I’m getting physically ill when I read some of the quotes from the players.  They seriously need to take a page out of the owner’s books and zip it.

Who the f–k am I?

In the grand scheme of things I’m nobody, but I’m a nobody that spends over $3,000 of my hard-earned money on the NHL each year.  We’re talking cold hard cash, straight to the bottom line of what we all now so affectionately refer to as HRR (and that holds true regardless of the definition).  I represent the working man that actually pays the bills for the millionaire players and the billionaire owners.  For that reason, I think I’ve earned the right to have some questions answered (or more likely ask them and then go on with my life).

Get to it already…

I’m really not a fan of Donald Fehr.  I find him smug, sneaky and difficult to trust (sound familiar?).  I have absolutely zero faith that he cares at all about the health of the sport of hockey and I’m legitimately worried that he might ruin it (say what you will about Gary but at least his livelihood is connected to the health of the sport).  Donald is scary good at serving kool-aid and it looks like the players can’t get enough.

Rather than ramble on and try to make you believe what I believe, I’d just like answers to the following questions.  If anyone knows Gary Lawless personally, please kindly ask him to pass along my questions to the appropriate people.

1)    To the players – Why do you feel entitled (and that’s the best word to describe it) to such a large percentage of revenue as compared to all the other major sports?  Seriously, please help me understand why you are so special.  Doesn’t 50/50 have a nice symmetrical ring to it?

2)    To the players – You complain about how hard done by you were coming out of the last lockout, yet since then your salaries have done nothing but skyrocket, all while going through the worst economic collapse since the great depression.  Why should I feel sorry for you?

3)    To the players – There are as many owners losing money as making money.  How many of you lost money last year?

4)    To Donald Fehr – Why do you insist on stating your percentages, not in terms of actual revenue, but rather in terms of a fantasy revenue stream that is based on grossly aggressive growth assumptions that are unlikely to continue indefinitely?  Do you honestly think you are fooling anyone?  Please stop it with the convoluted offers like you are going to pull a fast one on Gary.

5)    To Donald Fehr – Could you please stick to negotiating on behalf of the players rather than telling the NHL how to run its business?  That is accomplishing nothing.  If anything, it’s making matters worse.

6)    To Donald Fehr – How did you flip it around so that the tail is wagging the dog?

7)    To Donald Fehr – What. Is. With. The. Lack. Of. Urgency?  As I understand it, the league wanted to start negotiating as early as last November and you waited until June/July.  Your stall tactics are absolutely infuriating.

8)    To Donald Fehr – How can you possibly expect the league to play without a new CBA when we all watched you lead the baseball players to a strike partway through a season only to force a cancellation of the playoffs?  Yep, the Expos fans are still pissed.  Very clever of you to make the NHL out to be the bad guy though.  Most people will probably believe you.

I guess that’s it for now.  I’ll be here, patiently awaiting some responses.

P.S. It is embarrassing to read some of my posts from last year.  Please forgive me.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

6-Game Player Reviews

After 6 games, here my thoughts on the skaters…

Nik Antropov – He won me over pretty quickly after a very uninspired preseason. He’s good with the puck, he takes it to the net, and he looks like he cares. He’s also been much better defensively than I expected. He and Burmi have been magic together.

Zach Bogosian – I think we’re starting to see the Zach Bogosian that got drafted 3rd overall. He plays a very physical game in the defensive zone and is starting to show some offensive flare. He hasn’t registered a point yet, but that should change quickly. He’ll be a key guy in the future if this team is going to take the next step anytime soon.

Alexander Burmistrov – What’s left to say about this kid that hasn’t been covered in the media. He’s been flat out amazing in all 3 zones. He was a personal favourite of mine before the season started and now he basically walks on water in my eyes. I see a lot of Datsyuk in Burmi. We can only hope he develops into that kind of player.

Dustin Byfuglien – I’m a little torn on Buff at this point. He’s literally a one-of-a-kind player in this league so he’s a very nice piece to have. He brings an element to this team that could not be replaced. He just needs to get a little better at picking his spots and he needs to show a little more urgency with the puck in the defensive zone. He has shown some improvement in the last few games.

Tobias Enstrom – He had a few shaky moments early in the season, but it’s very evident that he’s a key player for this team. He plays big minutes, he’s crazy smart, and he makes up for his lack of stature with an active stick in the defensive zone. I feel more than safe calling him a good #1 defensemen in this league, and those guys are hard to come by.

Tanner Glass – He’s been a solid player on a key line for the Jets so far. It says something about the state of the team when the 4th line has been key, but it has. Glass brings some energy, has been good on the forecheck and got a nice goal in the Pittsburgh game.

Ron Hainsey – I’m a big Hainsey fan. He gets a bit of a bum rap because of the bloated salary that he comes with, but you have to be able to separate the salary from the player. He’s been Mr. Consistent so far this season and I got the impression from watching him in Columbus that he’s a solid locker room guy. I’m very comfortable when Ron Hainsey is on the ice.

Randy Jones – He had a really rough first game, but I have to give him a partial pass because it’s a small sample size and he was probably nervous.

Evander Kane – I was expecting big things from Kane this year and I’ve only seen glimpses of it so far. I’m not a big fan of how Noel handled him very early in the season. I get what Noel was trying to do, but I think it back-fired a bit because it almost looks like Evander is trying too hard now if that makes any sense. He’s gripping it a bit too tight right now and is trying to force the play instead of letting it evolve naturally. I’m pulling VERY hard for him to break out soon. Noel needs to find him some better minutes.

Andrew Ladd – Obviously the first line hasn’t brought it offensively and that needs to change fast. Having said that, Ladd brings it in many other ways. It’s very easy to tell that Ladd cares a lot. I put him in a rare category with heart-and-soul guys like Toews and Umberger, and I mean that as a huge compliment. I love having this guy as the clear locker room leader on the team.

Bryan Little – I’ve been unimpressed with Little so far. That may be partly due to the fact that he came so highly-hyped by the Thrashers fans. Perhaps he’s a victim of unrealistic expectations but I think he needs to elevate his game and be a bigger part of that first line.

Brett MacLean – I view this guy as a plug. Maybe I’m just not watching him enough but I hardly ever notice him out there. As I understand it, he’s got good hands around the net, but he doesn’t have the speed for a 3rd line role. I’d love to see Cormier or Klingberg get a shot to bring more energy to that 3rd line.

Derek Meech – Has been pretty solid so far in his first 2 games. Nothing flashy, but that’s not a bad thing for a 7th defensemen.

Johnny Oduya – Obviously had a really rough first game. I was just starting to come around with him after the Pittsburgh and Toronto games, and then he had the gaff in the Ottawa game. The only time you should make a pass up the middle is when a passing lane is open. STOP PASSING THROUGH OPPOSING PLAYERS! I’d love to see him get back to his NJ Devils form.

Mark Scheifele – I’ve probably said enough about this kid in my last post. Bottom line is the coaches have to determine whether he’s physically capable of playing 82 games at this level and they have to determine whether he can contribute to this team’s success (translation: no healthy scratches). If he can, then he should stay. I realize that I’m in the great minority on this topic though.

Jim Slater – I love Slater so far. He is a glue guy that does it all. He wins faceoffs, he plays physical and he can chip in offensively. Guys like Slater are so underrated and so necessary on good teams.

Tim Stapleton – To be honest, I don’t have much to say on Stapleton. He doesn’t seem to be a liability on the ice which is good I guess, but I just don’t notice him much out there. Solid depth guy at best.

Mark Stuart – This is one player that I did not know much about before this season and he’s been a very pleasant surprise. He might be our most solid defensive defensemen, he plays a physical game and he is a well-spoken leader in the locker room.

Chris Thorburn – Another key member of the GST line. Tough to find any faults with his game as he and his linemates are doing exactly what a 4th line should do – getting pucks deep and wearing down the opposing D.

Kyle Wellwood – I really like the offensive depth that Wellwood brings. He sees the ice well and has looked good with Burmi and Antro. What has surprised me the most about Wellwood is his compete level. He comes with this tag as an enigmatic, underachieving forward, but I don’t see that from him. He gets into the dirty areas and gets it done. His biggest drawback is that he’s not exactly a physical specimen.

Blake Wheeler – Along with Ladd and Little, Wheeler has been a bit frustrating to watch. I like his speed and he shows glimpses of passion but for a guy who is 6’5″, I’d love to see him play more physical and take the puck to the net. He’s been a bit of a perimeter player so far and that needs to change. It’s time to go from potential to actual for Wheeler.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

The Scheifele Dilemma

The more I think about this Scheifele situation, the more I think he should stay up with the Jets all year.

I know, I know. If you would kindly stop booing for a second, I’ll try to explain why…

I think Scheifele is different than most highly touted prospects in that he can already think the game at an NHL level. His hockey IQ is pretty much off the charts. I also think his attitude is one that doesn’t require him to go back to junior to “dominate”. His head seems to be screwed on straight enough that he’ll do whatever is necessary to get better, whether he is up here or down in Barrie. For me, the biggest reason to leave a prospect in junior for more seasoning is that he is not ready mentally and/or emotionally to play in the NHL. That just does not appear to be the case with Scheifele.

He obviously needs some work physically (both strength and speed), but I don’t think going back to junior helps him get where he needs to be any faster. As long as he’s physically mature enough to contribute to the team, I don’t think his physical development is an issue. I’ll trust the coaches to determine whether his body can handle an 82 game season at this level. If they determine that it can’t, then that is the one reason I can get behind for sending him back down.

People are quick to say that “he might get ruined if he stays up, but no one ever gets ruined going back down for an extra year”. I believe that, in some cases, going back to junior to rack up 120+ points can result in the player developing bad habits. I don’t want this kid learning to score against boys; I want him learning to score against men. Burmistrov is a great example of someone who clearly was not hurt by playing in the NHL at 18 years of age. Would he be doing this well if he went back to junior last year? I’m not so sure. Yeah, he might have had a great year in junior, but I suspect he’d be spending most of this year adjusting to the pro game. I only compare Burmistrov to Scheifele because I think they are similar in their ability to think the game at a high level.

Admittedly, it was a bit of a shock (for us fans and for Scheifele himself) going from the preseason games to the regular season games. Scheifele was clearly in tougher against the better line-ups when the games meant something, but I’m already seeing signs of progress only 6 games into the season. In the Toronto game, he looked really dangerous offensively, and in the Ottawa game, he finally added an element of physicality to his game. He was actually bumping guys in the corners and he even got into a few minor scrums after the whistle. He wasn’t taking anyone’s head off, but he also wasn’t shying away as much as he had been the previous 5 games. These are both good signs that he has the talent to learn on the fly and improve playing against the best. It also helps a lot that he is not a defensive liability out there.

Some will argue that Scheifele should be sent down just so that we save one of his contract years. While it is a point worth mentioning, I think it’s last in the list of criteria that should be considered. In fact, the whole contract issue can be a double-edged sword. Say for arguments sake, his breakout year occurs when he’s 21 years old. I’d rather have already signed him to his 2nd contract before that big breakout year rather than have to sign him for Doughty money when he’s only coming off his entry level contract. Sure, that is a very specific set of circumstances, but that is kind of my point. Who knows what path this kid’s career will take? His future contracts should not weigh very heavily into this decision. At this point, I don’t care whether he becomes a UFA 1 year earlier, 7 years in the future.

At the end of the day, I’m not going to lose any sleep over this either way. I just want what’s best for the kid long-term. The current group-think seems to be that he HAS to go back to junior. I’m just not so sure it’s that much of a slam dunk decision.

Posted in General | 2 Comments

Nikolai Zherdev: Yay or Nay?

By now you’ve probably heard the rumbling that Nikolai Zherdev has expressed interest in, or at least has not squelched the rumors about, a potential signing in Winnipeg.  Here is a recent quote from Zherdev about the possibility of playing in Winnipeg:

“The weather is not a priority to me. The most important thing is to get a good role on the team, a good coach and a good contract. Everything related to climate and geography doesn’t basically mean anything.”

“I met with Vityaz GM Alexei Zhamnov a little while ago, he played three years in Winnipeg. He said it’s very cold and a lot of snow there in the winter, which just makes it an ideal place for hockey. Great!”

“Manitoba doesn’t scare me. I wasn’t born in Africa afterall.”

Zherdev spent 4 seasons with Columbus and then bounced around from the Rangers, to the KHL, and then back to the NHL with Philly last year.  He is just entering what should be the prime of his career at age 26.

Why You Might Not Want Him

enigma (noun):  something puzzling, mysterious or inexplicable; a riddle, or a difficult problem

diva (noun):  a person who considers herself (or by extension himself) much more important than others, has high expectations of others and becomes angry when such personal standards or demands are not met

All joking aside, the biggest question mark with Zherdev is one of character.  It’s been said that he’s a bad locker room guy who is not very coachable.  It’s a bit disconcerting to consider what kind of influence he might be on our other young players, particularly guys like Kane and Burmistrov.  Like most crafty stickhandlers, Zherdev has been accused of holding onto the puck too long and turning the puck over at inopportune times.  His level of buy-in to the team concept is often low.  He’s one of those guys that marches to the beat of his own drum, which is not exactly a good thing for a team that is supposed to be built on character.

Another reason Chevy might want to steer clear of Zherdev is that he would muddy the water for the bottom 6 even more and he would take away a spot that one of the young guys might be able to step into (think Gregoire or Cormier).

Why You Might Want Him

First off, from a risk/reward standpoint it doesn’t get much more attractive than this.  To get a guy like Zherdev on a short-term contract at a modest price offers huge upside.  We’re talking about a guy that is capable of putting up over 30 goals and 60 points for about $2M.  Value-wise, it would be a home run if Zherdev approached anywhere near those numbers.  The Jets are lacking in bona fide top 6 talent and overall offensive depth and Zherdev could go a long way towards remedying those deficiencies.  Imagine what losing 2 key offensive guys to injury would do to the Jets current line-up.  SCARY!

Zherdev had a bit of a rough year in Philly last year, but he wasn’t really a match there.  He played very limited minutes and had issues with Laviolette (or vice versa depending on whom you believe).  If you go back further than last year though, he had a great final year in Columbus (61 points) and a good year with the Rangers as well (58 points).  Ignoring the year in the KHL, he would arguably still be a Ranger if the relationship didn’t sour with a generous arbitration hearing in Zherdev’s favor in the summer of 2009.

Speaking as a former fan of the Blue Jackets, Zherdev would be an exciting guy to watch night in and night out.  He possesses a level of skill that is in very short supply in the NHL.  We are talking ELITE puck handling.

After all that, if you are still not sold, how about we approach this purely from an asset management perspective.  There would be nothing stopping Chevy from signing Zherdev to play for a few months and then off-loading him at the trade deadline for a 2nd round draft pick or something in that range.  Not too shabby in terms of manufacturing something from nothing!

Conclusion

I know Chevy and co. have been adamant that they are as interested in a player’s character as much as their on-ice ability, but in this case it’s worth the risk in my opinion.  The character issues do trouble me, but I think with Zherdev it’s more an issue of him being a little reclusive than it is him being an actual disruptive force in the locker room.  Plus, when you consider the fact that Claude Noel is already familiar with Zherdev from his time in Columbus, I think the risk is manageable.

Zherdev can be a very effective player when he wants to be.  We just need Noel to light a fire under him.  Make it happen Chevy!

Posted in General | 1 Comment

Worth a Watch…

The more Thrashers fans that remain Jets fans the better in my opinion…

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Zach Bogosian: Stud or Dud?

I know it’s WAAAAAAAYYYYYY too early in his young career to even be having this conversation, but being a Blue Jackets fan (pre-Jets relocation of course), I’m a little gun-shy with star prospects because I got a front row seat to witness the train wreck that was Nikita Filatov.   Now I’m not comparing Bogosian to Filatov, and heck I’m not even saying Filatov is a guaranteed bust (although getting a 3rd round pick for him means he was for Columbus); it’s just that it’s the middle of summer and I’m seriously lacking in the material department.  So without further ado, is Zach Bogosian going to be a….

Here is what The Hockey News had to say about him:

ASSETS: Has great mobility. Owns a huge shot from the point and sound offensive ability. Is very aggressive and capable of shutting down opposing forwards.

FLAWS: Needs to pick his spots better when going for the big hit. Is still a little raw in terms of his defensive-zone coverage, as well as his offensive game.

CAREER POTENTIAL: Potential all-around star defenseman.

That all sounds pretty good.  Even the flaws are all things you would expect to hear about a young defenseman in the NHL; things that can be tought and improved upon.  That’s not what scares me about him.

Innuendo alert:  It’s been said about Zach Bogosian that he is not the sharpest tool in the shed and that he’s not very teachable.  Rumours persist that he had some issues with the previous coaching regime in Atlanta and that he wasn’t very good at soaking up the knowledge from teammates either.

Now I have to tread very lightly here because I fully admit I’m just propagating rumours, BUT (and that’s a big but) if there is a hint of truth to them, then I start to get worried really fast.  His value is quite high right now.  If there is a chance he won’t pan out, it’s a delicate balancing act between not bailing too early and not waiting until his value is totally in the tank.

The fact is, this is not an easy situation for Chevy and it’s the reason I much prefer to play armchair GM as opposed to the real thing.  Best case scenario, Bogosian turns out to be the perennial all-star that he was touted to be.  Worst case scenario, his development continues to flounder and he ends up as a mediocre 5-6 defenseman with character issues.  Either way, Chevy does not want to get this one wrong.

Much like Eric Fehr, I’ve got Bogosian in my keeper draft so I’m really pulling hard for him to succeed (not to mention he’s on the Jets so I’m pulling for him by default).  He’s probably the guy I’ll be watching most closely this season.  It will be a big one for him!

P.S.  My keeper draft has a salary cap, so to Zach Bogosian - you will take a very modest salary and be happy with it.

Posted in General | 1 Comment

OT: Murray Becomes a Shark

A big congrats to Andrew Murray of Selkirk for signing a new 1-year deal with the San Jose Sharks!  I was really hoping he would end up playing for the Jets, but the writing was on the wall with the quick signings of Rypien and Glass.

Murray is a smart, disciplined, hard-working hockey player.  He is responsible defensively, he gets in on the forecheck quickly and he is really good on the wall.  But more important than all that, he’s a great guy off the ice.  From Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch via Twitter:

“Incidentally, if asked to put together a list of the five kindest athletes I’ve dealt with, Murray most definitely gets a spot on that list.”

I think Murr is capable of putting up over 15 goals in the right role so hopefully he can get healthy and have a hell of a year in San Jose.  Best of luck bud!  We’ll be watching!

Posted in General | 1 Comment

Which Kane Would You Rather Have?

I decided to scientifically compare Evander Kane and Patrick Kane along several key dimensions to figure out who I’d rather have on the Jets.

Nickname

Evander:  Gucci (not verified / poorly sourced)

Patrick:  20 Cent

Edge:  Patrick

Lack of Douchiness

Evander:  Seems to be a great guy by all accounts.

Patrick:  See the picture at the top of the post.

Edge:  Evander

Athletic Lineage

Evander:  Father was an amateur boxer and hockey player. Mother was a professional volleyball player.

Patrick:  Father sells cars.

Edge:  Evander

Better Neck Size to Head Size Ratio

Evander:  His neck looks like it could kick my ass.

Patrick:  Fairly normal looking neck.

Edge:  Even though the criteria is ‘ratio’, I can’t overlook the Chuck Norris-like aspect of Evander’s neck.  He wins.

Boxing Experience

Evander:  Named after the great Evander Holyfield.

Patrick:  Once threatened to punch a cabbie in the face over 20 cents.

Edge:  Evander

Better Laugh

Evander:  Not relevant.

Patrick:  Not relevant.

Edge:  It’s a trick question, Jason Spezza wins.

Number of Stanley Cup Rings

Evander:  0 – hopefully soon to change.

Patrick:  1

Edge:  Patrick

Overall Winner:  I used a complicated weighting system to come up with an aggregate score across all the dimensions and it turns out we’ve got the better Kane.  Case Closed.

Posted in General | 4 Comments

Must…resist…bad…pun…

Whew, I did it.

Rose-coloured glasses alert:  I might be a tad biased when it comes to Eric Fehr because I’ve got him in my keeper draft.

I’m starting to sound like an uber-fan here, but this is another great move by Chevy.  He picks up another local kid (Fehr is originally from Winkler, MB) for Danick Paquette and a 4th round draft pick.  With all due respect to Paquette and the 4th rounder, that seems like a steal.  I can only assume this was a cap-related move on Washington’s part.  They were over the cap before the trade and they still have to make room to sign Alzner.

Eric Fehr is a big-bodied forward (6-4, 212 lbs) with a scoring touch.  Those guys do not grow on trees folks.  His numbers were particularly impressive in junior where he put up 109 goals over his last 2 seasons with the Wheat Kings.  He has battled injury problems, most notably with his shoulder last season, but he’s a guy that could really blossom once he gets all that behind him.

Fehr scored 21 goals in 69 games 2 seasons ago in a limited role with the Capitals which only saw him average 12:07 of icetime per game.  In my opinion, he’s ripe to bust out if he’s placed in the right role.  He was just too far down the depth chart on an offensively talented Washington squad.  Perhaps I’m reaching a bit here, but it wouldn’t surprise me too see him develop into a 30-goal scorer.  He’s got good hands and he goes to the right places.  As long as he can get healthy, we’ll be looking back on this as a home run trade.

Fehr is on the final year of his current contract which will see him earn $2.2M.  He will be a restricted free agent next July.  It seems like he’s been in the league for a while, but he’s still only 25 years old.

Edit:  Wow, I just read the 2 articles in the Free Press by Tim Campbell and he pretty much hits all the same points I did.  I’m redundant.  I’m going to have to be quicker on my posts.  Note that Tim couldn’t resist the cheesy pun though.

More than Fehr-ly good and Jets nab Eric Fehr in trade.

OT:  Congrats to T-Bor and Alison!  Nice touch hiring those tiny acrobats to do flips on the dance floor.  I’ll be expecting you to set up a hop scotch tourney so I can redeem myself.  Oilers suck.

Posted in General | 2 Comments

Jason Gregoire

Wow, another great move by Chevy!  Welcome Jason Gregoire!

I know it kind of contradicts my last post to say I love this move (you know, the post where I said you can’t build a team effectively through free agency), but this doesn’t have the same feel as a ‘typical’ free agent signing.

Gregoire utilized a loophole in the collective bargaining agreement whereby he became an unrestricted free agent because 4 years had passed since he was drafted and he was still unsigned by the team that drafted him (the New York Islanders).  By leaving college, he activated his free agent status as of June 1st.  It was a shrewd and ballsy move on his part to go this route and it looks like it paid off.

The reason I say this isn’t a typical free agent signing is that it’s fairly low risk / high reward.  I say low risk because Gregoire has no pro experience, so I imagine Chevy got him on a 2-way contract at a reasonable price (the details haven’t been released yet).  I say high reward because judging by his numbers in college, this kid can play.

In 120 games with UND, he put up 57 goals and 52 assists for 109 points!  That is very respectable for div 1 NCAA.

If all that wasn’t enough to make you like him, he’s also a hometown Winnipeg boy!  I heard an interview with him on Hustler and Lawless on the drive home today and he sounds like a solid kid.  I could easily see him becoming a fan favourite down the road if things work out.

I was bitching and moaning that the cupboard is relatively bare.  This certainly helps that situation and it’s worth pointing out that because Gregoire went the college route, he’s already 22 years of age and is probably very close to being ready to contribute.  If not right now, then hopefully in the very near future.

Again, awesome move by Chevy to manufacture something from nothing.  Every little bit helps!

 

Posted in General | 2 Comments